Date/Time: Saturday, November 6, 4:00 pm PST
Location: Fresno, California (Bulldog Stadium)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Point Spread: Fresno State -5 – O/U 60
Head-to-Head: Boise State leads the all-time series with 15 wins against 7 losses. After losing to Fresno State in their first three meetings, Boise State won 11 out of 12 games from 2001 – 2012. Since then, the two teams have played seven games with the Broncos winning four of seven. That stretch of seven games included three Mountain West Conference Championship games.
Boise State is back in action on Saturday evening to square off with the 25th ranked Fresno State Bulldogs. The Broncos are coming off of a 28 – 19 victory against Colorado State and are looking to break their season long streak of losing one game and winning the next. Throughout the 2021 season the 4 – 4 Boise State Broncos have somehow yet to have either a two-game winning streak or a two-game losing streak. Boise State is looking to leave Bulldog Stadium with a winning record for the first time this season. To get there, they’ll need to win the race to 30 points.
The Race to 30 Points:
Can the Boise State defense hold the Bulldogs under 30 points?
On paper Fresno State is better than Boise State in nearly every statistical category. The Bulldog offense is 13th overall, averaging 482 yards per game and are 7th in passing yards. However, Fresno State is just 83rd in the country in rushing yards per game and 72nd in red zone offense. The Broncos have been better against the pass than the run this season, and red zone defense is a rare bright spot for the 2021 Broncos as they sit as the 16th best red zone defense in the country.
Fresno State is 24th in scoring offense and average 35 points per game. The Broncos have, outside of Nevada, consistently held teams under their scoring average, and will have to do so again if they have any chance of leaving Fresno with a win.
The Fresno State offense is led by QB Jake Haener who averages 337 passing yards per game to go along with 23 touchdowns and six interceptions. Haener spreads the ball around to a talented group of receivers. The pass catching group is led by Jalen Cropper with 61 receptions and 10 touchdowns on the year, but Fresno State has eight players with double digit receptions. On the ground, the Bulldogs split carries between Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims who have combined for over 1,425 yards from scrimmage.
In a race to 30 points, the Boise State defense must help the Bronco offense if they want to improve to 5 – 4 on the season. Turnovers and good field position for the stop-and-start offense would help, but the defense scoring on their own would be a godsend.
Can the Boise State offense score 30 points in Fresno?
Unlike with the defensive numbers, on paper Boise State looks likes they have a good shot at scoring 30 points on Saturday night. The team averages 29 points per game and are likely to get some key players back in action for the week nine contest. To add to the statistical picture, Fresno State doesn’t have the defensive stats of the teams that have completely stifled the Bronco offense:
Air Force (17 points): 3rd ranked defense
Oklahoma State (20 points): 7th ranked defense
Colorado State (19 points): 14th ranked defense
Overall, Fresno State is the 41st ranked defense and the 5th best defense Boise State will face through the first nine weeks. Unfortunately, games aren’t played on paper, and Fresno does some things very well that Boise State hasn’t had answers for this season. Most importantly, Fresno is 3rd in the country in tackles for loss and Boise State is 99th in the nation in tackles for loss allowed. If Boise State wants to win a race to 30 points, they can’t find themselves in 3rd and long situations, and as always, the Bronco offense must figure out a way to manufacture second half points.
Will a healthier Boise State team win the race to 30 points?
Sticking with the statistical theme, the Broncos definitely have the stats to match their 4 – 4 record. The team isn’t a standout in any statistical category outside of red zone offense and defense, passing offense, and turnover margin. Add it all up with the schedule they’ve they played, and the record isn’t a huge surprise.
The margin of defeat is a surprise. The Broncos have lost four games by an average of 5.75 points. Even with poor statistical rankings, it is easily conceivable that the Broncos could be 6-2, or even 7-1, if they got a bounce of the football here or there, weren’t victim to a game changing call by a referee, and if they had better luck in the injury department.
In each of Boise State’s losses, the Broncos were missing key starters in the trenches and at the skill positions. The secondary has been decimated throughout the season as well. Saturday’s game could be Boise State’s best from a health standpoint. The Broncos should have their full arsenal of skill position players, they are healthier on both lines, and while Markel Reed is out for the season, the secondary is closer to healthy than they’ve been in weeks (pending pre-game doom-and-gloom injury updates, of course).
In an article full of statistical insights, I don’t think the stats tell the story in this one. Watching the games, it’s clear that Fresno State has been the better team at most points throughout the 2021 season. On top of that, Boise State has struggled defensively early in games and struggled mightily in the second half of games offensively. In a packed Bulldog Stadium, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Boise State won’t beat Fresno State with a slow start and a whimpering finish. They must flip the script and win a race to 30 points to topple the 25th ranked Bulldogs. The Broncos are in a better position to pull off the upset than most fans think, but I predict they come up just short. Boise State 28 Fresno State 30.